David Blatt and other coaching abominations

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Press Conference

Everybody, David Blatt is submitting a historically awful coaching season.

I’ll break it down:

  1. He was gifted the best player in the league who is either in his prime or very close. That player is also A. very unselfish, B. an extremely gifted defender and C. extremely coachable.
  2. Included under the Cavs preseason Christmas tree was the ultimate stretch four, who is a rebounding machine and a talented passer. Kevin Love is not that bad of a defender either.
  3. A talented point guard who can get into the lane whenever he wants.

Now the Cavs are certainly flawed:

  • Their bench is terrible.
  • Anderson Varajao is already (predictably) out for the season.
  • Dion Waiters was (predictably) a head-case, chemistry killer.

All of that said, the Thunder are 18-19. As you remember, they started the season without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and they play in the West, which is a million times better than the East. Their bench and overall depth are also terrible. The Cavs are 19-18 and their top three guys have been (mostly) healthy all year. What? How?

David Blatt is getting destroyed by Scott Brooks!

I admit that I fell into the same trap as everybody else. “I like that Blatt won all those games in Europe. I like that he’s bringing a different pedigree to the NBA.” Now that resume from Russia and Israel looks a lot less impressive. Like a gunfighter from Sweden.

I think I would have fired Blatt already. The whole, “well the 2011 Heat got off to a slow start” argument has worn off right? Everyone expected this team to be an offensive juggernaut. Maybe that was an unfair but this team should not be the fifth best team in the East.

This got me thinking of other historically awful coaching performances:

Sean Payton, 2014 Saints

sean_payton

All they had to do was go 8-8 and they win the worst division in modern NFL history. And they couldn’t do it, with Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Jimmy Graham and three talented receivers. Sure, their defense was not good, but solid was all they needed. At the end of the season, they lost got crushed by the Panthers and beat handily by the Falcons at home. In the words of Will Ferrell, what the Hell happened! Is the Super Dome haunted?

Mark Richt, 2008 Georgia Bulldogs

mark-richt-georgia-tri

This team had Matthew Stafford, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi (I know but on a college team with AJ Green?), Justin Houston (admittedly a freshman) and Geno Atkins. That team lost three games. Three.

Bob Stoops, 2008 Oklahoma Sooners

Bob Stoops

This team had Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, DeMarco Murray, Trent Williams and Gerald McCoy. They made it to the National Title Game, I’ll give them credit for that, but they got beat pretty bad by Florida, 24-14 (a more lopsided game than the score would indicate). But this spot is more of a life-time underachievement award for Stoops. I believe people ripped on the Big 12 in part because loaded Oklahoma teams kept coughing up big bowl games. The 2006 team, with Adrian Peterson as a junior, had a lot of those same players (notably as freshmen) and lost three games — notably the famous Fiesta Bowl to Boise State.

Dusty Baker, 2001 San Francisco Giants

Dusty Baker

Another life-time underachievement position because Baker also disappointed with very good Cubs and Reds teams. In 2002, people praised Baker for getting the Giants to the World Series. In retrospect, they should not have lost to the Angels. Oh my God, Barry Bonds hit .370 that season with 46 home runs, 100 runs and RBI each, had a staggering 198 walks for a .582 on base percentage and 1.381 ops. But that team wasn’t all Bonds all the time. They had Jeff Kent who hit .313, Benito Santiago (who had a decent offensive season), and Reggie Sanders (who wasn’t great but was a very solid player). They’re pitching staff had a top three of Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt and Livian Hernandez. Go back and look at the Angels roster.

But they lost to the Angels in seven games. What is inexplicable is the year before when they did not make the playoffs (2001 when Bonds hit 73 home runs).

Bobby Cox, any year in the ’90s that wasn’t 1995

bobby_cox

Now that It’s official a certain fact needs to be shouted from the rooftops. THE BRAVES TOP THREE PITCHERS WERE ALL HALL OF FAMERS. Um, that hasn’t really happened before. If this the rest of the Braves team was a bunch of castoffs and journeymen or if they could only keep Maddux, Smoltz and Glavin together for a couple years, I would give Bobby Cox a break. People give Cox a break because they won one World Championship, but give any other strong manager of the era that team and he would win at least two. In particular, the losses to the 1993 Phillies and 1997 Marlins seem particularly egregious in retrospect.

Bill Self, 2014 Kansas Jayhawks

Bill+Self

Bill Self had the best two players in college basketball — Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid — and they lost in the second round of the tournament to Stanford. In case you’re checking, Stanford had zero NBA players that year. The game was also in St. Louis, which I’m sorry to say is a partisan Kansas crowd. I don’t care that Embiid was hurt. Self still had the best five players in the game. Every year that goes by the 2008 National title win looks flukier and flukier. (Also, screw Kansas.)

John Calipari, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Kentucky Wildcats

John_Calipari

There’s been a significant amount of revisionist history foisted on the public these days about John Calipari. Pundits have been praising Calipari for his X’s and O’s work, in game coaching and that his teams play hard. They even give him credit for convincing players to sacrifice minutes. I believe this talk is inspired by the fact that the 2014 Wildcats might go undefeated and thus become the greatest college basketball team of all time. The coach of that team has to be an all-time great right? All of those people need to chill out because Kentucky should have won five titles in a row. Were Coach K, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino or Brad Stevens had been given this much talent, he would have won at least twice by now. I believe Calipari is the best recruiter of all time but he also has a prodigious history of leaving flaming bags of poop at two different programs in the form of NCAA sanctions as he walked out the door to a better job.

Mike Brown/Mike D’Antoni, 2012 Lakers

Mike-Brown

If you think I’m being unfair to one coach or the other, Brown could easily make this list for his job manning the Cavs during the first LeBron era and D’Antoni did a horrible job with the Knicks. However, this season went so poorly that the emotional stress convinced Dwight Howard to flee the sinking Lake Show ship like it was on fire. The raging dumpster fire that is the 2014 Lakers owes its inception to these two guys.

Scott Brooks, Thunder 2011 to Present

Scott-Brooks-590x900

It’s not Scott Brooks fault that the Thunder traded James Harden. It’s a move that looks more perplexing every day, especially when Harden should win the MVP for the Rockets. Still, he’s had three of the top 25 players in the league, including two in the top 10 the past five years and has no hardware to show for it. The Spurs have made the finals twice in this span and the Thunder happen to be the worst match up for the Duncanettes.

Not enough offense in baseball?

eric-hosmer-alex-gordon-mlb-tampa-bay-rays-kansas-city-royals1

Now that the Cardinals have been defeated, my enthusiasm for the playoffs has waned somewhat. But, I don’t mean to be dismissive, this year’s playoffs have been some of the most entertaining in years.

It’s distressing to me that I heard a lunkhead on sports radio deride baseball for it’s lack of offense. This is something I’ve heard a few times actually. First, he was trying to figure out why there’s less scoring and I’ll address all those reasons.

What everybody says: bullpens now are too good

“It’s really difficult to hit when every pitcher out of the pen throws 95 miles per hour,” quote from the aforementioned lunkhead. This is totally true. Bullpen specialization is a trend that continues to increase but it’s not new. I would say bullpens have been used like they are today dating back to 2000. Pitchers threw hard back then too.

Really, when are the most runs scored in baseball games? I would say it’s almost always innings one through six before the pen gets involved.

There are a lot of really good pitchers right now

When Justin Verlander is the fourth best starter on his team that tells you how loaded the starting pitching market is right now. Every team has a bonafide ace.

There are more pitchers parks than hitters parks

The split is probably about even but the trend since 2000 has been one of creating more pitcher friendly parks — Miami’s new stadium, Comerica, Safeco, whatever the Angels park is called, Citi Field, Petco and Nationals Park. Now, Target Field seems to be a band box and some notable hitters parks do not feature very good teams right now — Wrigley, Fenway, Ballpark in Arlington, Enron and Citizens Bank in Philly.

Steroids

I think baseball has done a good job of cleaning up the game of steroids. The testing is tough and the penalties are harsh. The downside of cleaning up the game is that there is less offense — bats get slowed down, there are fewer hits and way fewer home runs. You really want to increase offense, get rid of steroid testing. Oh, you don’t want to do that because of the sanctity of numbers. OK.

All the people that bemoan that lack of offense in baseball need to shut the hell up. Think about it, what’s more exciting a 2-1 game or a 10-5 game? Give me the former every time. See the same people who will complain about a lack of offense will also cry foul when the games are too long. You know what games take a long time, the 10-9 contests with 77 walks. Pitcher’s duels are fast.

Really, baseball is in a transitional period and if the Royals win the World Series there might be a jump start in changing baseball thinking. The Money Ball era theories were home runs are great, walks are good, double plays are bad and strikeouts are the cost of doing business. But when there are so few guys who hit for real power, all those strikeouts look way worse. For like the 10th year in a row, there was a new league-wide record for strikeouts.

The Royals don’t walk but they also don’t strikeout. I’m guessing the Giants, with free swingers like Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, also have high batted balls in play totals. The Royals also manufacture runs with base running. Speed might become a more valued commodity. The best way to increase offense is to cut down on strikeouts. The Giants motto should be put the ball in play and good things will happen.